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Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises [Hardcover]

Timothy Geithner
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 May 2014

From the former Treasury Secretary, the definitive account of the unprecedented effort to save the U.S. economy from collapse in the wake of the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression

On 26 January, 2009, during the depths of the financial crisis and having just completed five years as President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Timothy F. Geithner was sworn in by President Barack Obama as the seventy-fifth Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. Now, in a strikingly candid, riveting, and historically illuminating memoir, Geithner takes readers behind the scenes during the darkest moments of the crisis. Swift, decisive, and creative action was required to avert a second Great Depression, but policy makers faced a fog of uncertainty, with no good options and the risk of catastrophic outcomes.

Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises takes us inside the room, explaining in accessible and forthright terms the hard choices and politically unpalatable decisions that Geithner and others in the Obama administration made during the crisis and recovery. He discusses the most controversial moments of his tenures at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and at the Treasury, including the harrowing weekend Lehman Brothers went bankrupt; the searing crucible of the AIG bonuses controversy; the development of his widely criticized but ultimately successful plan in early 2009 to end the crisis; the bracing fight for the most sweeping financial reforms in seventy years; and the lingering aftershocks of the crisis, including high unemployment, the fiscal battles, and Europe's repeated flirtations with the economic abyss.

Geithner also shares his personal and professional recollections of key players such as President Obama, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, and Larry Summers, among others, and examines the tensions between politics and policy that have come to dominate discussions of the U.S. economy. An insider's account of how the Obama administration saved the economy but lost the American people, Stress Test reveals a side of Timothy Geithner that only few have seen.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Business (15 May 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1847941222
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847941220
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 5.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Sensational ... Tim's book will forever be the definitive work on what causes financial panics and what must be done to stem them when they occur." (Warren Buffett)

"Stress Test is an absolutely compelling account of the financial crisis, written in a clear, graceful style with striking honesty at every step along the way." (Doris Kearns Goodwin)

"This is a lucid, fascinating, and extremely important book . Geithner does something unusual: he engages in substance. With both insight and humility, plus a good dose of wry humor, he explains what really happened during the financial crisis. No matter your political persuasion, you will find this book educational, enlightening, and interesting." (Walter Isaacson)

"A fascinating memoir about life in the maelstrom of the financial crisis. Earlier books have described much of what happened that September, but Geithner was present for all the frantic meetings, the thousands of phone calls - and in the case of Lehman, the failure to find a buyer that could keep it alive. New problems cropped up almost weekly, if not daily. He explains each in easy-to-understand language and what the issues were that shaped the responses. There could be another crisis someday, of course, but what Geithner and his colleagues did has made one far less likely." (USA Today)

"He's written a really good book - we might as well get that out of the way, as so much else about Timothy F. Geithner remains unsettled. There's hardly a moment in Geithner's story when the reader feels he is being anything but straightforward - a near-superhuman feat for someone who spent so much time in public life defending himself from careless and dishonest personal attacks. The decisions he made are easier to criticize than they are to improve upon. I doubt many readers will put his book down and think the man did anything but his best. On his feet he might have stammered and wavered. That in itself was always a sign he was unusually brave." (Michael Lewis New York Times Book Review)

Book Description

From the former Treasury Secretary, the definitive account of the unprecedented effort to save the U.S. economy from collapse in the wake of the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a well written, comprehensive personal narrative 14 Jun 2014
By erkki
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Worth reading for following reasons:
1. Geithner was the only person who worked both at Fed and in the treasury
2. gives a new insight into the life of Obama administration,
3. replies to the Sheila Bair's criticism,
4. tells about the European developments from the American perspective,
5. tells more about Geithner as a person
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely one to read 27 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It is a mistake to suppose that you have to agree with an author’s opinions to find the book worth reading! Rather, a work like this should make one question both one’s own and the author’s opinions. This one should be required reading for all bankers, all investors, and all politicians - as should be Margaret Reid’s The Secondary Banking Crisis 1973-5 - and indeed all ought to be able to recite the first three pages of Chapter 10, whatever they may think of the way Tim Geithner tackled his extraordinary tasks. The book is also a very good read for anyone interested in the ways the world works and politicians are prone to behave.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read with an open mind 2 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
When initially diving into this book, I was expecting it to be exclusively a defence of Geithner, by Geithner. Whilst still of the opinion that he might possibly be giving undue emphasis to certain actions and decisions, whilst glossing over others, I was pleasantly surprised how readily he was willing to put his hands up and admit to his mistakes.

This book should definitely be required reading for anyone who thinks he knows what caused the 2008 crisis and who thinks he knows how to prevent future crises. Geithner makes it very clear how a combination of a vast number of factors, many unrelated, worked together to cause the events of 2007 onwards. He doesn't try to pin the blame on any one subset of all the actors, but tries to explain clearly and concisely how actions taken (or not taken) led to the events discussed.

He does throw in some interesting anecdotes and asides, but I feel he could have gone a little further to give a more human touch to all the events that unfolded. I found it particularly amusing how many administration officials were under the impression that he was an ex-Goldmans banker, whereas he had never worked for any bank in any capacity.

I do share his despondency about how difficult it will be to enact the desired changes to make our global financial system safer going forward. My conclusion would definitely be that it would be better to attempt to fix the US political system first. Then and only then could any meaningful supervision and regulatory authority for the financial system be put in place. Almost unbelievable that US politicians would push hard for greater supervision of all consumer finance firms, just not those offering car loans, or greater supervision of all banks, just not the two biggest in the particular State that the politician represents.

All in all, a great read, but just be aware that the author, on balance, will want you to be sympathetic to the subject!
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An historic escape act 17 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This may be the truest account of the global financial crisis. Geithner is no scintillating story-teller, but his tale is gripping. In 2008 we were on the brink of a depression. Geithner was at the eye of the storm. Together with Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson he was one of a trio of policy-makers who are responsible for pulling off an historic escape act.

Critics forget that politics is the art of the possible. Geithner, Paulson and Bernanke would be the first to admit that almost every policy action was a second or third best solution. Any meaningful criticism must take account of political and practical constraints. The treatment of Lehman Brothers is an extreme case in point. With hindsight, the failure of Lehman looks necessary in order to scare the body politic into underwriting the far greater liabilities of AIG and supporting Paulson's demand for $700bn in TARP money, no strings attached.

I recommend reading the Epilogue - which describes the eventual outcomes - before starting this book. One of the ironies in policy-making is that the best public servants rarely get credit. Not only did Geithner, Paulson and Bernanke save us from catastrophe, they were right on all the major calls. It was right to aggressively ease monetary policy and counteract the widespread financial panic with the Fed's balance sheet. Their opponents who pontificated about moral hazard and inflation will be damned by history - persistently low inflation and profound risk aversion are the legacies of 2008.

On fiscal policy, Geithner also wins hands down. American output recovered faster than Europe's and the UK's, it's budget deficit improved more rapidly, and US GDP growth has been far better than the average post-banking crisis recovery.
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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
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Geithner's presents a persuasive case for Federal Bailouts, 2 big admissions and a good deal of memorable stories of his interactions with who's who to save our Blue planet from sinking in a depression.
I am not necessarily a Fan of Geithner (however, I really found this book worth reading, which according to me is an attempt to equitably chronicle the role of all associated decision makers during the 2008-2010 recessionary phase & now that I've read this book, I have more respect for Geithner as a human being)

Timothy F. Geithner, the US Treasury Secretary (2009-2013), former President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and currently the President of Warburg Pincus, a global Private Equity investment institution), emphasises on the importance of Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP or Federal Bailouts) of 2008 and his role in saving the world from the depths of Economic Depression.

In his first book titled "Stress Test," Geithner constructs a persuasive case of his role as the man most responsible for the TARP (Federal Bailouts) of 2008. Financial bailouts historically were only made available to the commercial banks and not extended to the Wall Street Investment houses, Geithner was the first Treasury Secretary to have made this possible.

He makes the case for TARP in saving the Financial Institutions. He extends the argument on the value of Financial Institutions gaining enormity when the country in question is the United States of America (USA), the largest economy on the planet. The importance of the Financial Institutions grows and reaches epic global proportions, when the same nation is facing a crisis, which finds its origins in the core of the same Financial Institutions.
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